MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Miami-Dade County Public Schools has reconvened its health task force for the first time since South Florida started to see a rise in COVID-19 cases. However, deciding whether or not to keep schools open wasn’t the topic of discussion.
It was more about how to make sure students don’t fall through the cracks and how coronavirus quarantines should be handled now that the CDC is changing its recommendations.
“We have not seen a dramatic rise in our schools,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
There have been 1,533 cases in Miami-Dade Public Schools since Oct. 5 and 941 in the last month, according to the Miami-Dade Public Schools COVID-19 Dashboard.
Despite those numbers, the school district says there is good news because the majority of its cases are not coming from inside the schools, rather from people coming back to school sick.
The questions before the superintendent’s task force included how to handle quarantines and how to prevent students from falling behind.
“We are still in a 14-day quarantine period. We would like to provide flexibility but until we get guidance from the Florida Department of Health and the Department of Health. We are sticking with the 14-day quarantine,” said Carvalho.
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While that sounds pretty simple it isn’t.
There’s confusion around the district about who should quarantine and what should working parents do.
It is because the CDC is still having the conversation about whether those infected should be on a 7-day quarantine with a negative test, a 10-day quarantine without one, or the current 14-day standard.
“How much risk are you willing to tolerate versus what the benefits are?” said FIU’s infectious disease expert Dr. Aileen Marty.
Additional confusion comes from this.
All Miami-Dade Public Schools, whether they are elementary, middle or high school, fall under the same rules, but charter and private schools don’t have to follow the same protocol.
“What is the level of risk you want to take? Back when levels were lower you really didn’t have much risk, the fact that this community is not settled, there is nothing like having the kids in schools,” said Dr. Marty.
That’s where the second concern is.
Students, dealing with mental health issues, falling through the cracks educationally and living full time in environments not considered safe.
“Parents are making the choices they need to make. Whether it’s work related, underlying conditions, whatever it is. But we have students that are becoming victims due to their modality or their circumstances,” said Carvalho.
Superintendent Carvalho said about 45% of the 345,000 Miami-Dade public school students are in school. The district has “lost” about a thousand students that they have had to track down.
The Superintendent says most of them have either left the area or the country entirely with their parents due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic.